The lockdown to check the spread of COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu should not be lifted in one go, but be eased in a phased manner, medical and public health experts suggested to Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Thursday.
The advice came on a day when the State saw its sharpest spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. Tamil Nadu added 161 cases to its tally, with Chennai alone accounting for 138 of them.
“A single decision on the lockdown is not possible,” Prabhdeep Kaur of the National Institute of Epidemiology (ICMR) said.
“Our overall lifestyle has to change. The virus will be with us not for a few days but for a long time. When that is so, doing it [precautionary measures] for a day or two is not enough,” she explained.
Addressing reporters after the experts’ meeting with the Chief Minister, Dr. Kaur said they provided certain indicators to the government from the epidemiological point of view and based on the health system’s preparedness.
“With those indicators, lockdown can be relaxed in some areas or it can be continued in some areas. The government will take a decision,” she said.
The indicators were finalised based on data and surveillance, and analysing them could help the government in taking a decision, Dr. Kaur said. “But, even if the lockdown is eased, it has to be eased in a phased manner,” she cautioned.
During the past two weeks, there had been an increase in testing and hence more COVID-19 cases were being reported, she pointed out.
Even after the lockdown is lifted in some areas, measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and wearing masks in public places would have to be continued.
Dr. Kaur said vulnerable groups have to be protected. “Young people should not interact much with elderly people. It [interaction] should be in control to some extent,” she said. Other vulnerable people such as those with cancer, kidney ailments and diabetes would have to take their treatment so that the risk was reduced.
Under the prevailing situation, certain relaxations could not be granted. “For example, mass gatherings and crowded places should not be permitted for now,” she said. The preparedness of health systems had to be enhanced and efforts towards surveillance, contact tracing, isolation of detected cases and quarantine facilities should continue. “All of us should come together to control this virus situation,” she added.